A Bit Past Halfway…

If we assume we are going to a bowl game which is reasonable as one more win makes us eligible and two more pretty much secures a spot, then we are just a bit past the halfway point of the season. That is a good place to have a ten-day break between games, especially because Pitt has to really work on our defense.

It is also a good time to look at the season’s games that have been played and at who we face in the next five regular season matches.  First let’s cast back and look at where we were at this point last season in Narduzzi’s first year as a head coach.

OK – here are our first seven games last year when we stood at 6-1:

2015-sched-1

What does that tell us? Well, back then it told us that Pat Narduzzi was the best HC in college football – at least according to some of our more optimistic fans. In truth it was a surprisingly nice start to a rookie HC’s career and one that filled our Pitt balloons with hydrogen… it seemed there was no limit as to how high we’d go.

Winning four straight (ACC) conference games was a real accomplishment for Narduzzi and I can’t remember the last time we had done that.  Wait….!!  That is what the internet is for.  Back in 2009 under Wannstedt we won five BE conference games in a row then put the cherry on top with a win against Notre Dame. 

That DW win stretch put us at 9-1 and the best W/L record we had since the 1980s. (Take a look at the scoring defense for those six games – 15.6 ppg.  That is less than half of the 31.4 we are giving up this season.)

2009.png

Coming back to 2015 – in the second half we didn’t fare as well as we dropped four of our last six games… and take a look at the points we gave up in that last stretch:  31.3 ppg – sound familiar?

2015-sched-3But still we finished with  an 8-5 record that made all of us feel good about the hire and about the immediate future of Pitt football.

So, what have we seen from the first part of 2016?  Well – the points against our defense held at almost the exact same number at 31.4 ppg and that is disheartening.  But over the offseason Narduzzi and 2015’s OC Jim Chaney parted ways and our new OC Matt Canada has revamped the offense to the tune of 38.4 ppg (22nd nationally).

That is built mainly around a rushing offense that is churning out an average of 239.1 ypg (29th) and has scored 19 TDs on the ground… which actually isn’t that much given the yards gained.

However we’ve scored points in other ways also – Peterman has 11 TD passes against only two INTs. Two beautiful kickoff returns by our prospective MVP (IMO) Quadree Henderson; a fumble recovery and score by Galambos and INT Pick-6s by both Whitehead and Maddox for a total of five “other-than” TDs.

Honestly, that is about the most balanced scoring we have seen in some time especially since we hadn’t been getting that number of defensive and special team’s  scores in the past, at least not as much as we may this year – in 2015 we had six total non-traditional TDs and in 2014 we had none.  

It’s a good bet will get some more of those type of TDs over the next six games. That’s a big change in two years and shows aggressivness and good coaching in that area of play.

Here is who we face for the remainder of the season:

2016-2

It’s hard to get a handle on just how well we’ll do with this lineup.

Next up is VT in Heinz Field this Thursday evening and those games have tended to go our way in the past. Butthe Hokis have been pretty impressive of late albeitwith somewhat up and down results in the last three games:

vt

How in the world they lost to Syracuse is beyond me.  The fact that they book ended that lost game with wins over strong ACC opponents in #17 NC, and then whooped Miami is impressive. Beating NC at their place is tough also so I think VT can probably play  straight up with anyone in the ACC.  Whether that includes Pitt is something we’ll find out in four days.

Earlier I would have said Miami was a predicted loss but they have faltered so maybe we can go down there and take them.  Why not, right? Payback for the whooping they gave us last season.

Clemson will be too strong for us all around.  Syracuse has slowly become a better team as the season goes on and they have a hell of a passing attack.  Duke is Duke – but remember we have had some close games against them in the past – high scoring ones also.

The fly in Pitt’s ointment this season has been its passing defense and “horrid” isn’t too strong a word for it.  At this point in the season we have given up these stats – and that keep in mind that our ‘yards per completion’ number is 10th worse in the NCAA:

222

Here is what our next five opponents do in their passing games:

333

I think we sink or swim with this part of our game. If we want to pull upsets here we need to change this part of our defense – even though teams aren’t scoring through the air that much against us they are grabbing huge chunks of yardage to get their team in the red zone and score 15 TDs  on the ground.

Look at that again – for a team that only gives up 97 yards per game rushing the opponents have 15 rushing TDs.  By the table below you can see our Red Zone defense has sucked (right column for opponents) just as our own Red Zone work has been good – almost exactly the same which is weird.

RED-ZONE SCORES  Pitt – (29-31) 94%  Opponent – (21-22) 95% 
RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS  Pitt – (24-31) 77%  Opponent – (17-22) 77% 

On another Note – the “Mr. Do Everything” for Pitt football just got a promotion.

October 19, 2016                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Chris LaSala Promoted to Associate A.D. for Football Administration

LaSala has been a vital part of the Pitt football program for nearly two decades.                                                                                                                                           

    PITTSBURGH—Chris LaSala, who is in his 20th season as a member of the University of Pittsburgh’s football staff, has been promoted to associate athletic director for football administration. 

     LaSala has a well-earned reputation as one of the nation’s finest football operations professionals. His responsibilities have expanded in recent years, both within the football program and overall athletic department.

     In addition to his invaluable contributions to football, LaSala is an important member of Pitt’s sport administration team and he played a key role in the development of The Strategic Plan for Pitt Athletics unveiled this past June.

     LaSala is one of the athletic department’s longest tenured staff members, joining the Panthers in 1997 as director of football operations. He was named an assistant athletic director in 2000, serving in that capacity until his current promotion.

    “Chris LaSala is a tremendous resource for our entire program in so many important ways,” Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He is an outstanding person and professional who has the trust and respect of our student-athletes, staff and administration. I know how heavily I rely upon him on a daily basis. Chris is a true Pitt Man and this promotion is highly deserved.”

    LaSala has handled a wide variety of responsibilities with the Pitt football program over the years, including team travel accommodations, youth summer camps, coaching clinics and preseason training camp arrangements as well as daily administration. He also serves as the football program’s liaison to numerous campus offices and within the athletic department.

     One of LaSala’s most impactful contributions at Pitt is his daily work with student-athletes in preparing them for life after college. His efforts have made the football program one of Pitt’s most active and enthusiastic teams when it comes to community service. In fact, the football team was recently lauded for logging the most community service hours in the Pitt Athletic Department.

     LaSala has been an instrumental figure in the dramatic upgrades within Pitt’s practice facility during the past year. Those enhancements include a new team meeting room, locker room, players lounge and staff conference room. He has also been a creative influence in the newly installed graphic displays that showcase the Panthers’ rich football history.    

     A native of Aliquippa, Pa., LaSala was a member of the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame 2014 induction class. He is a past recipient of the prestigious Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in service to the University of Pittsburgh. LaSala has also been recognized as an Outstanding Graduate of Temple University’s sport and recreation management program.

     LaSala graduated from West Virginia in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He earned his master’s degree in sports administration from Temple in 1991.

81 thoughts on “A Bit Past Halfway…

  1. Yep Reed…the Redzone defense is almost a non-existent defense. Pitt is #123 out of 128.

    22 trips in and the opponent has score 21 times. With 17 of the scores being TD’s.

    The Bend & Break Defense.

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  2. The Gobblers lost to VT cause Cuse has a QB that can make plays. Both with his arm (311 yards) and his legs (106 yards) for a total of 417 yards against the Gobblers. Yesterday Eric Dungy had another great game, he threw for 434 yards and ran for another 54 yards, so 488 total yards. QB’s across the nation are putting up huge numbers, the TT QB threw for over 655 yards, OU’s for 541 and 7 TD’s.

    When is Pitt going to get a gunslinger QB. It seems like everyone or near everyone has one.

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  3. I’m not Anonymous either. Hey Reed why is this happening. I’m logged in to facebook but not coming up as me? It’s me Sean…from Ellicott City.

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  4. lol under the SOP years which I hope are over we routinely lost to ourselves. :}
    The red zone defense has bee truly horrendous, not that other areas dont give it a run for their money.
    One thought on defense, clearly the type of players Nard wants are here in force which should result in more defense risk taking ie blitzing. In several games including last week the first half base rush was ineffective and they starting bringing 5 or 6 in the second half. while I realize you cant blitz every down one might think they would try two full halves of pressure.

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  5. Sean I like to fly under the radar. My name made the Burgh papers Saturday, given what legal concept I invented in court perhaps Anonymous would be better. I once had 3 post names in a day here – I attributed it to my stupidity but maybe not :}

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  6. I think Pitt plays an exciting brand of football. Could the passing game and Darth be better? Sure, but this team is in every game until the end and won’t get blown out by anyone, even Clemson.

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  7. A few peeps think we’re bad, negative, etc on this board. I’m over on a Michigan State blog, their game thread. Some are calling for Dantoni’s head, After they were just in the Playoff last year.

    http://www.theonlycolors.com/2016/10/22/13368596/michigan-state-vs-maryland-game-thread#comments

    Their rapid decline this year reminds me of the 3rd year under Foge. It just ‘all of a sudden’ went South.
    The Spartans lost to Maryland 17-28 and are now 0-4 in the BigJoke and 2-5 overall. After going 9-3 and 8-3-1, the bottom fell out in that 3rd year, Pitt went 3-7-1 and we have never been the same since.

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  8. Oh what was so disturbing in the 3rd season of Foge, (other than the 7 losses) was Pitt was ranked #3 in the Country, Pre-Season. So much was anticipated and expected.

    Pitt’s program was so highly thought of then, that even after losing the first 2 games of the season, we were still ranked #17.

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  9. Could be my PITT imagination, but I’ve watched a lot of college football over the past two weeks on TV – much not P5 conference. Seems like almost all those teams have a better quarterback – faster, more athletic, stronger arm, etc. – than we’ve had in years. Help me out, tell me I’m imagining this.

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  10. What’s really weird in it’s own right and the odds gotta be astronomical is this:

    Pitt in that disastrous program changing 1984 season opened with BYU at Pitt Stadium and lost.

    Michigan State hosted BYU at East Lansing this season…..and lost.

    After the Mormon ‘kiss of Death’ Pitt promptly got routed the next week, 10-42.
    After the Mormon ‘kiss of Death, MSU promptly got routed the next week, 40-54. Most points MSU has allowed since 2003.

    As Howard Hughes learned the hard way….stay away from the Mormon mafia’s Kiss of Death. 🙂

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  11. ~ htp123

    Nope you aren’t bro. Marshall had a better QB. Btw Charlotte beat Marshall yesterday in Huntington. First year in D1 football for Charlotte.

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  12. With miami losing 3 in a row, it kind of reminds me of HCMR’s years at Georgia. He’d have a nice looking team that made it into the rankings and then fluttered to the ground with a thud.

    I don’t want to look past the jokies of vt, but peaking at miami, they don’t seem as tough as originally thought.

    The jokies of vt though seem tougher than originally thought. We can beat them with our O, but our D needs to play much better to snag the W.

    HTP!

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  13. I know, I know, it’s early, but I just checked SI’s updated Bowl predictions after the weekend games. PITT is slotted to the Sun Bowl in El Paso against Fraud Graham’s ASU ! That would be interesting , although I’d prefer to them in the Big Apple for the Pinstripe Bowl.

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  14. PSwho rated 24, the national punjabs are blowing their collective loads. Our victory over them looks even better.

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  15. lol who Herman. He went to Fresno State and was born in Spokane. But who knows. Spent most of his life in California and Washington. Other than the 7 years in Logan, Utah.

    Pedo’s are #24
    Va Tech are #25

    Interesting.

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  16. This sounds familiar….doesn’t it.

    As Athletics Director, Barnes’s work has been integral in improving the overall image of Utah State University itself, which image had taken a hit in recent years due to the futility of the football team. The New York Times quoted him as saying “Athletics are the front porch of the university. It’s not the most important room in the house, but it is the most visible.”[5]

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  17. htp123 – Pitt fans were banking on Chad Voytik being that QB that was both mobile and could pass. Didn’t really happen that way. He played OK football but wasn’t the type to win a game by his play alone.

    I’m saying now (actually for a while) that MacVitte is no lock to be our QB next season. I do know that Narduzzi holds no confidence in DiNucci but the fact that PN went out and got a transfer QB for 2015 already speaks volumes about what his plans are – he’s going to have a competition in spring and fall at that position.

    Both Narduzzi and Canada don’t hold the QB position in high esteem anyway – their whole deal is running the football so the QB is along for the ride – as we have seen this year especially.

    Last season Peterman was 72nd nationally in pass attempts – this year he’s 95th – which shows you just how much PN cares about the passing game.

    That is fine this season but I think we lose Ollison and Ibrahim (remember that guy?) and Conner. That leaves us with Moss and Hall (who isn’t very good) and a true FR in Silby… plus we lose two of our best OL in Johnson and Bisnowaty.

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  18. Oh yea Ibrahim. I gave up on my calls for him to get some PT. I knew the backfield would be too crowded, but I thought he would make a nice slotback, wingback. Getting tired of calling for Ollison as well, as he’s listed as 3rd on the depth chart. If he stays next year, he’ll be 4th behind nard dog recruit Sibley, just as was behind nd recruit Hall.

    I’m still very much concerned that the Nard Dog’s defensive philosophy does not fit with offensive trend(3 and 4 wideouts, spread passing attacks) of the ACC and indeed much (most) of the nation.

    UNC shutdown the same UVA who shredded us by using 6 DB’s and 1 LB. UVA had their lowest passing total of the season, only 143 yards.

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  19. It didn’t happen that way, cause Chubbs had a point to prove. Why else did he come to Pittsburgh. Guy never held a job in the ACC his entire coaching career. Comes here for 1 year and back to the SEC.

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  20. @PittPT

    My comment was in jest, we should be ranked, I think we received 2 votes for ranking purposes. When Pitt beats VT we will enter the ranks and PSU might lose to Purdue in a massive let down.

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  21. Emel – Charlotte is in their 2’nd season of FBS football. They played a full 8 game Conference USA schedule in 2015. They were not eligible for conference championship or Conf. USA bowl games in 2015. Didn’t really matter as they went 0-8 in conference & 2-10 overall.

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  22. Right Pitt-cocks….i tried to ‘edit’ it. But no button. 😦 How u been buddy.

    I see UMass almost beat the Gamecocks. What are the Minutemen in, their 5th season as D1.

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  23. ……????? : “Both Narduzzi and Canada don’t hold the QB position in high esteem anyway – their whole deal is running the football so the QB is along for the ride – as we have seen this year especially.”

    Matt Canada ran the wheels off of Jacoby Brissett (3rd round pick of the Patriots this year) for 2 seasons at NC State, when he had a legit NFL quality QB……Pat Narduzzi recruited Conner Cook — the winningest QB in Michigan State History (with him, Pat Narduzzi went like 34-4 in his final 3 years at Michigan State)…..I’m utterly Vexed by that statement, so I’m just going to move-on…….

    Narduzzi and Canada are doing the best they can to milk all the Magic out of Nathan Peterman — but Nathan Peterman is not going to get invited to the NFL Combine, he will have to fight to even get into any NFL camp — he will have to try for Canada to have a post College career. He is what he is and yet he’s giving Pitt Football his absolute All, so I Commend him for that and hope he can make the most out of his opportunity at Pitt, and lead Pitt Football to 9 regular season wins this year and a Bowl Win. — p.s., Anyone+Everyone who’s a Pitt fan/supporter lol: STOP bringing up Chad Voytik EVER AGAIN PLEASE as a D-1 QB, Good-Riddance… — Narduzzi made him leave, and that dude is 2-5 at Arkansas State. They just beat South Alabama 17-7 in their last game for win #2. Dude was so bad he needed to be Weeded from Pitt Football.

    Dang, penn state getting one single insane miracle win (blocked punt, blocked field goal for TD= ‘MIRACLE win’ lol) , *took the Wind outta a lot of “Pitt Fans” sails it seems 😦 😦 😦 . I only see that a team Pitt Smashed across the board (minus Terrish Webb, Ryan Lewis, and Avonte Maddox lol) showed how good Pitt can be, clearly just myself there.

    One good point though from other posters after that pswho upset: This week Pat Narduzzi has to get this Pitt Squad On-Fire to play V-Tech on Thursday, and Pitt NEEDS TO BE VICTORIOUS. http://www.espn.com/blog/acc/post/_/id/95813/acc-week-8-power-rankings-pitt-and-virginia-tech-on-a-collision-course ——- ESPN says Pitt and VT (ranked 6 and 7 in the ACC by them) are on a Primetime (7:30PM ET), Thursday Night “Collision Course!” haha

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  24. Dark, Pat narduzzi had nothing to do with the offense at Michigan State so the fact that he recruited a QB doesn’t mean a damn thing at Pitt. It is pretty evident that he considers the QB position as an addition to the running game and that’s it.

    Matt Canada’s offenses at North Carolina State the last two years were 78th and 82nd in passing offense so passing doesn’t mean a thing to him either…

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  25. Reed, how can you make the statement that Canada and Narduzzi doesn’t care about QB? Isn’t 38 points per game good enough for you? You have to use the resources you have at your disposal, and Pitt has a wealth of quality OL and RBs … a no brainer!

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  26. This was Matt Canada’s QB his last 2 years as the NC State offensive Coordinator before arriving at Pitt. Guess some people don’t know about Brissett and Canada at NC State:

    That’s Matt Canada gushing about his QB in the beginning of the highlight. Sorry if Drake isn’t most of your preferred Song-Choice, lol

    And Pat Narduzzi:

    Went 12-2 and won The Rose Bowl in 2012-13, then next year went 12-1 and beat Top-5 Ranked Baylor in the Cotton Bowl his last year at MSU (before coming Home to Pitt ) with his QB Conner Cook at the Helm. And it’s Famous now that Pat Narduzzi found and recruited the 2 star, unranked, zero power-5 offer, 6’4” Conner Cook outta Ohio (Cough*, like our 6’5” Thomas MacVittie!!! )

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  27. @Reed I think you just don’t really know about Pat Narduzzi’s history at Michigan State — especially how involved he was in recruiting and helping to mentor Kirk Cousins and then Conner Cook. Due to your Tino Sunseri, Chad Voytik – *QB Trauma lol — Clearly there’s no persuading you on this issue (Until you see the Light when 6’5” Thomas MacVittie Amazes 🙂 ), so something we can all just agree on:

    Hail To Pitt 🙂

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  28. wwb – interesting – maybe the depth at Pitt scared Donovan away. Let’s hope that is the case – lol.

    I know the coaches have to game plan and recruit, while following all of the NCAA rules. Focus right now has switched to vt. I’m sure the D coaches are watching the Tennessee and cuse game film. I believe pressuring QB Evans throws off his game like night and day…

    HTP!

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  29. Emel – doing OK. Been traveling a lot since Doc took me off any restrictions since the hip replacement.

    UMass is in their 5’th year of FBS. Now an independent after 4 years in the MAC. Probably will drop down to FCS because no other conference in the area.

    So. Carolina is bad this year. UMass could have won. They had 4 turnovers but a win is a win.

    Maybe a QB transfer coming from So. Car. – Brandon McILwain from Newton,Pa. Started three games for the Gamecocks as a true freshmen. He was replaced by a senior & now another true freshman who happens to be the son of the running back coach. Mother upset & vocal.

    I recall that Dokish had McILwain as one of the top 10 recruit for ’16 from PA. He’s an option QB. Runs really well but needs work on his passing. Needed to redshirt. He went to So. Car. because Mom & Dad are alums.

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  30. Devin Street caught a huge 3rd down pass conversion today from Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. While Dallas was stocked at WR and he didn’t really fit with the Patriots, the Colts might really be able to utilize street.

    Dion Lewis should be back any week now with the Patriots and Tom Brady — Jabaal Sheard has also been incredibly productive with the Patriots.

    A ton of guys currently on this Pitt Football roster will be playing on Sundays (and Thursday and Monday Nights 😉 ).

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  31. Sure, we lose Biz and DJ after this season. Jones-Smith steps up to play tackle and I trust the OL coach to find a guard from that stable of large bodies at his disposal. Shouldn’t be a problem.

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  32. I don’t think the circumstances warrant saying that Narduzzi considers QB an addition to the running game.

    Three different OCs in three years (one of those years Narduzzi wasn’t coach, Chryst’s last year). It’s not easy to bring in a top QB recruit and solid QB depth right off the bat with that.

    Plus he’s working on only his second full recruiting season, not enough time has passed to say he doesn’t really care about QB a la Wanny.

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  33. Jeter will be another Robert Foster. What…..Pitt doesn’t get enough players who become stars in the NFL.

    D-linemen……Aaron Donald anyone. One every frickin College Defensive Award there was, Now an NFL All Pro. Not good enough. Take a hike !

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  34. I want to wish young Donovan Jeter well in his next venture in life. Michigan and Jim Harbaugh have thir program moving in a very good direction for college wins – Mr. Jeter can enjoy his Saturday’s in the Big House playing the Big Joke schedule.

    A few recent Pittsburgh guys who chose Michigan are now surfacing on the 2-deep as seniors.

    Fortunately, we still live in a free country, where we are able to make choices like this and dream of a bright future. In most cases, we are also held accountable for those choices and MUST live with them. Work hard and the sky is the limit. Important emphasis – work hard!

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  35. Another example that Pitt will never get all of the best prospects from Western PA. Terrell Pryor, who actually committed to Pitt BB as a sophomore, actually made a statement that he wanted to go with a school that gets a full house of, 90 or 100K … his final 2 was Ohio St and Penn St. Apparently Jeter was looking for the same. And if we can’t keep the local blue chips, how are we going to get anyone from afar?

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  36. Pitt is in the top ten for rushing D.

    You can’t just look at the passing yards given up. Analysis must include all facets of the D.

    Narduzzi’s philosophy is stop the run and run the ball. Control the clock. You have to pick your poison. Would we rather have a Todd Graham philosophy?

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  37. Got you Not, and his approach of run/stop run is working.

    I just wonder if that is going to be enough for the future teams on the schedule. At this point we are forced to out score other terms in high scoring games. With such a lopsided defense though if our offense falters I don’t think we can assume the D is going to hold teams down in their scoring.

    We’ll see – this is a good year and we may well see our offense continue to score 38 ppg.

    But in our three toughest games ahead we see this from their defenses:

    Clemson – Total Defense = 8th nationally / 298 ypg ; Rushing Defense = 33rd / 132 ypg

    VT – Total Defense = 10th nationally / 302 ypg ; Rushing Defense = 10th / 103 ypg

    Miami – Total Defense = 21st nationally / 343 ypg ; Rushing Defense = 49th / 148 ypg

    In our two losses OK State is 102nd in total defense and NC is 60th. That worries me, but again let’s hope our offense doesn’t hit any speed bumps because our defense probably won’t cover for them.

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  38. I agree Reed, hopefully our offense is ready and our defense turned a little corner against VA.

    But my Pitt experience tells me to expect us to be 5-5 in three weeks.

    We just have too many flaws and the next three up have fewer and a lot of speed.

    In Narduzzi’s Pitt career, PSU is his only signature win and VT and Miami probably don’t rise to that level, but we probably won’t be favored in any of them (maybe Miami if we beat VT).

    Like

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